New Friend from Taiwan

After my sabbatical this summer, our family decided to be more intentional about opening up our home to neighbors and strangers. An opportunity presented itself almost immediately; we were invited to host a high school student from Taiwan for a two-week exchange program. By the time we picked up Allen at the airport on a Sunday afternoon, he had already been traveling for over 12 hours. He was friendly but understandably quiet and tired. Over the next two weeks, it was fun to see Allen become more and more a part of our family. Some significant things we shared: Giving Gifts – I had forgotten the importance of gift-giving in many other cultures. The first day, Allen presented each of our family members with a small gift. He gave us other gifts throughout his stay. After he left to go home, we discovered notes he’d written for us (in Chinese and English) as well. The gifts he gave and the ones we gave in return sealed our friendship. Sharing Stories – Allen was keenly interested in our lives as Americans, but I noticed he also enjoyed sharing about his own life and experiences. He was eager to tell us about his school and his family. When we wondered out loud about making a Moon Cake to celebrate the Chinese Moon Festival, Allen found a recipe for Moon Cakes like his mother’s. The stories we shared opened doors into each others lives. Being Human – After a high school volleyball game, I drove Allen and my son, Isaac, over some roller-coaster country hills. Both of them laughed and smiled as...

Being a Stranger in a Strange Land

Four years ago, CBF of Missouri provided me with the excellent ministry gift of a sabbatical.  One of the components of my sabbatical was to experience “being a stranger in a strange land.”  I chose to do this by visiting Bucharest, Romania. The plan was that I would meet up with a guy I had never met before (other than via the internet). “Gio” would rent an apartment for me, he would show me around Bucharest, we would travel to Transylvania and visit the Peles Castle and Bran Castle (where “Dracula” lived), and he would take me to visit the Ruth School for Roma kids in the Ferentari sector of Bucharest. I deliberately made no Plan B for lodging, transportation, etc. in case no one was at the airport.  As the plane descended into the Bucharest airport a sense of panic and fear struck me like a fist in the gut.  Like I said, there was no Plan B! Fortunately for me, Gio showed up and we had a superb time. That week I was in Bucharest in 2008 was the same week the whole world financial system imploded. On the small TV in my apartment the only English language channel was CNN International.  Every 30 minutes I saw again and again how badly the stock market dropped each day.  I would hear about banks in Poland, England, Ireland, and Iceland (of all places) that were being propped up.  Of all the weeks to be stuck in a “who knows where” apartment with no phone, no internet cafes, CNN International droning its same bad news over and over, and a new friend...

Missional Resources

One component of my job is to discover, foster and promote resources for missional churches. Those resources come from a variety of places: From Partners I recently got an email from Bo Prosser, Coordinator for Missional Congregations at CBF, entitled “An exciting new film about poverty from Sojourners.”  His email described a 30-minute documentary called “The Line” which features real people, their economic struggles, and their inspiring and creative responses to the challenges they face. Partners like CBF and Sojourners can provide great resources to congregations. From Staff Yesterday, a pastor in St. Louis called me to discuss his church’s upcoming Advent initiative. First he asked about marketing ideas in general. Then he asked if I knew anyone who could help with graphic design. My answer: “Sure! I can. I’ve helped churches with initiative like this before, and I’d be happy to help your church too.” CBF Heartland staff is here to provide a wide variety of personalized resources for churches in our area; call on us anytime. From the Community The greatest untapped reservoir of missional resources is you! CBF is a network of Christians and churches, and each one has unique gifts, skills and resources to share. What resource will you share with the CBF community?...

Free and Faithful vs. Faithful and Free

When CBF was formed, John Hewitt, the first elected moderator (who had also been pastor of Kirkwood Baptist church in the 1980’s) noted that we were “free and faithful Baptists.”  It was a sound-bite that caught on, and I have used it scores of times through the years.  Baptist historian Walter (Buddy) Shurden noted it would have been far better had the phrase been “faithful and free Baptists.” The word “free” seems to put the focus on the individual.  How many times have we heard the concept of “the priesthood of the believer” defined as “I can do what I want”? What a gross misunderstanding!  But the notion of free (especially for our American culture) implies the individual. The word “faithful” reminds us of higher responsibility.  Back to the priesthood of the believer concept, faithful reminds each of us about faithfulness to God’s desires for our lives; for our relationship to brothers and sisters who are also part of the Body of Christ; and to those we meet each day and can be the presence of Christ. As I observe Baptist churches I watch this same “free and faithful” play out.  In churches, the key word “autonomous,” while certainly true, lessens the awareness of our inter-relatedness to other churches.  A “faithful” focus heightens our awareness for the health of other churches. Just this week a tragic event happened at a church in Kansas City. On Wednesday night at our church, the other church was listed on our prayer calendar.  Our pastor prayed for the other church’s pastor whose burden is profound this week.  Our church prayed for families and...